Hurricane season is fast approaching with June 1 being the start of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. Many citrus growers in The Sunshine State are wary due to the destruction Hurricane Ian brought to citrus in September 2022. While not all of the tree damage and flood-caused tree mortality can be mitigated, there are steps that citrus growers can take to prepare for tropical storms and hurricanes.
The UF/IFAS Extension publication divides hurricane preparation into planning pre-storm protections and preparing for recovery after the storm. Planning is what your operation should be doing as soon as possible. While there is not much that can be done to protect the grove’s trees and fruit from wind and flooding, citrus growers can focus on protecting people, equipment, and supplies now before the season gets underway. While June 1 is the start of hurricane season, most storms pass over Florida in August and September.
Pre-storm preparation means having a plan in place before a storm looms. Your plan should include:
- Assign Responsibilities. Make sure everyone working at your operation understands the duties they are responsible for before, during, and after the storm. Also, determine how employees will contact the operation and vice versa.
- Sort Out Communications. Don’t rely on cell phones as service towers could be down, meaning your team will not be able to stay in touch. Utilize options like battery-powered hand-held portable radios, CBD radios, and cell phones with radio capabilities.
- Get Equipment Ready. Make sure that all of the equipment that could potentially be necessary after a storm—such as generators, chain saws, cutting torches, and air compressors—is in good working order, is charged, and there is enough fuel available.
- Perform Mitigation Tasks. While you cannot prevent every problem that a tropical storm or hurricane would bring, there are some tasks that can reduce the impact of the storm. For instance, fill tanks that hold fuel, fertilizer, and more so that they are less likely to move in the storm’s winds and rain. Another task is to clean out and pump down ditches and other water retention features so they are better able to handle the additional water the storm could bring.
- Take Care of Citrus Trees. Prune trees on a regular basis to minimize broken limbs and uprooted trees. Consider installing windbreaks in the off season.
- Secure Hazardous Materials. Make sure hazardous materials are somewhere safe and that holding tanks for materials like fertilizer and fuel are not going to leak.
BIO: Mike Roberts is the Vice President of the Frostproof, Fla.-based Griffin Fertilizer Co. Roberts joined the company in November 2011. He has spent the majority of his career in the fertilizer/agchem industry. Roberts earned a Bachelor of Science degree in citrus production from Florida Southern College in Lakeland. For more information, visit griffinfertilizer.com.
This column is sponsored by Griffin Fertilizer Co., and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or of its advertisers.